Harvest in Calgary

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The Calgary Herald / by Jessica Patterson

Surrounded by farm country, Calgary is a produce paradise

Fall is a delicious time of year, when locally harvested vegetables and fruits make their way into restaurants and Calgarians’ kitchens, ripe and bursting with flavour.

At the height of fall harvest, carrots, corn, squash and peppers, leafy greens and sweet potatoes are just some of the heady selection of produce spilling over on market shelves.

“September is the biggest time of year for us,” says Gert Lund, of Lund’s Organic Farm, just north of Innisfail.

The organic farm produces carrots, spinach, lettuce, potatoes and other cool-weather vegetable crops that grow well in Alberta’s climate. The farm then sells its produce at the Calgary Farmers Market. “We specialize in carrots and, by far, they’re the most popular,” says Lund.

Urban farmers Chad Kile and Rod Olson of Leaf and Lyre Urban Farming have had their fingers in the soil since the start of the growing season. The urban farmers use space in Calgarians’ backyards to grow produce, and then sell it to markets and restaurants.

“For us, the fall is a time when we plant spinach, kale, greens that like cooler weather,” Kile says. “It really flourishes. In the chinook zone, we like to plant things like greens because they tend to be quite hardy.”

Root vegetables — such as potatoes, carrots and beets — take the whole growing season, and come to full maturity in the fall. Kile and Olson reap their harvest from 24 garden plots — in yards volunteered by homeowners across the city.

When Kile and Olson first started out, a lot of people didn’t think urban farming would catch on. But they soon discovered anything will grow in Calgary soil.

“The warmth at night helps the growth cycle,” Kile explains.

Last year, the urban farmers shared their harvest with the landowners. This year, they’ve allocated a portion of the garden sites to let the landowners grow whatever they wanted, and Kile and Olson help tend it.

The benefits of growing, buying and eating local are not just for farmers and producers, but for consumers, as well. The average food item in North America has a large carbon footprint, travelling hundreds of kilometres before reaching the table.

It’s something Andrew Winfield, head chef at Calgary’s River Café on Prince’s Island Park, takes to heart.

“Any foods that are in a supermarket travel an average of 14,000 kilometres,” he says.

For every day that the product is out of the field, it loses nutritients, says Winfield — vitamins break down and sugars turn to starch — so that by the time you buy them from the grocery store, the nutritional value is often cut in half.

When you buy local produce, however, you can get to know the farmers — what they’re doing and how they grow their products, the chef says.

“We used to have an amazing amount of vendors, butchers and farmers. People always used to buy their produce at farmers markets. We got away from that in the last 50 years,” explains Winfield. “I’ve found in the last 10 years, there are a lot more community bakers, more butcher shops and artisan shops. Now, people can ask questions and develop rapport with their farmers.

“By knowing your farmers, you’re privy to more information about how your food was grown.”

This fall, keep your eyes peeled for produce that’s a little out of the norm for this growing season, such as apricots, suggests Winfield. Certain varieties are hardy and can even flourish in Alberta’s shorter, cooler growing season.

And backyard gardeners need not fear the frost, adds Winfield, because “it does a wonderful transition with things in the field. Strawberries are twice as sweet as they’ve been all year. And the root crops, the parsnips after that first frost, will be sweeter, as well.”

Chilled Parsnip Soup with Yogurt and Porcini Foam

Serves 6-8 normal bowls and 15 ish shot glasses

¼ cup butter

1 small white onion chopped

1 garlic clove crushed

8 parsnips peeled and chopped

salt and pepper to taste

¼ teaspoon garam masala

6 cups of hot vegetable stock

½ cup heavy cream

For Soup

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, add the chopped onions, garlic and parsnip, season with salt and pepper and toss until well coated. Cover and cook over a gentle heat until soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to have too high a heat, you will burn the garlic and make the soup bitter.

Add in the garam masala and stir for a few minutes, to release the aromas of the spice, slowly add in your hot vegetable stock. Simmer until the parsnip is cooked. Blend the soup in a food processor and then add the cream and check the seasoning, if you feel the soup is too thick add a little more stock. Pop into the fridge to chill.

For Porcini Foam

2 shallots, finely chopped

1/8 cup dried porcini mushrooms

1 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste

Sweat shallots in 1 T butter until translucent.  Add porcinis and heavy cream and bring to a simmer. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  Remove from heat and allow flavours to develop for half an hour. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and chill until completely cold.


Prepared soup

Prepared porcini foam

½ cup plain yogurt

Use a table spoon to fill the 15 shot glasses with the soup, at a half teaspoon of yogurt and then drizzle with porcini foam. Chill until service.

Local Organic Roasted Carrot and Split Pea Soup

With Moorish spices, farm goat yogurt, toasted fennel oil and mint

2 kg organic farm carrots

Peel, half and quarter carrots, toss with ¼ c olive oil salt and pepper, place in cast iron pan roast for about one hour at 400°F, stir every 20 min .

We usually like to roast in our wood oven to add a nice smoky flavour, but a oven will do fine.

Carrots should be well roasted and slightly caramelized when finished.

350 g diced yellow onion

100 g diced shallot

50 g garlic smashed and chopped

1/4 c olive oil

Sweat onion, shallot, garlic and olive oil in a pot until onions are translucent (no colour) .


15g toasted ground cumin

8g toasted and crushed coriander seed

8g toasted and ground fennel seeds

75g chopped preserved lemon

6g chipotle pepper from adobo minced ( we like to make our own in the restaurant)

Add to onion mixture and sweat for two mintues to cook out flavours.


150 g yellow organic split peas

4 L water

pre-roasted carrots ,

Simmer all together with lid on for about 2-3 hours or until split peas are all tender.

Add more water if needed.

Finish with juice of two lemons.

Soup should equal 5 L when finished.

Season and blend using hand mixer.

Leaving slightly chunky to enjoy the soft texture of the carrots and spices.

Ladle into bowls, garnish with a spoon of goat yogurt, a drizzle of fennel seed oil and a few strands of sliced mint.

Roasted Gold and Beet Salad with Candied Walnuts

For the Beets

1 1/2 pounds total red and gold beets

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

Sea salt

Heat oven to 350°F. Wash beets and cut tops and bottoms off. In a large bowl, toss beets with two tablespoons olive oil and salt. Place beets in a single layer in a large roasting pan. Cover with a piece of foil, sealing the edges. Bake for one hour, but begin checking the beets by piercing with the tip of a knife after 45 minutes. Bake until beets are tender but not mushy. Cool, peel, slice and set aside.

For the Vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons grainy mustard

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup finely chopped basil

salt and pepper

In a large salad bowl, whisk together three tablespoons olive oil, red-wine and balsamic vinegars, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, sugar, honey and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add to cooled beets and toss. Refrigerate while making the candied walnuts.

For the Candied Walnuts

1/2 cup sugar

1/8 cup water

1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves

1/8 teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Use middle rack in oven. Lay walnuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes. If not quite toasted enough, toast for one or two more minutes. Be careful not to burn. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a rack.

Pour water and sugar into a medium saucepan with a thick bottom. Have walnuts nearby, ready to quickly add to the pan at the right time. Cook sugar on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon as soon as the sugar begins to melt. Keep stirring until all the sugar has melted and the color is a medium amber. Add the walnuts to the pan, quickly stirring and coating each piece with the sugar mixture.

As soon as the walnuts are coated with the sugar mixture, spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet lined parchment paper. Use two forks to separate the walnuts from each other, working very quickly. Sprinkle the nuts with the salt. Let cool completely.

To assemble the deconstructed salad in skewers

Salad can be served on small plates tossed with some fresh greens or can be served on skewers for a deconstructed approach. Take your appetizer skewers and fill them with the marinated beets. Skewer a candied walnut at each end and serve.

Makes about 6 plated salads or 25ish skewers.

source:   calgaryherald.com

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